600 Air New Zealand jobs under attack
The Alliance came out with some radical ideas about worker occupations and workers control in response to the threat of job losses at Air NZ. CWG acknowledged these good ideas and took them further
In an article on Aotearoa Indymedia on 27 October titled "Creative destruction" by Air New Zealand’ Len Richards of the Alliance wrote:
“The announcement by Air New Zealand of the sacking of a highly skilled workforce is a massive disinvestment in New Zealand. If the government will not act, the workers can. They should take a leaf out of the Argentinean workers' book and occupy the maintenance hangers to keep them going.
Six hundred workers are to be thrown onto the economic scrapheap by Air New Zealand. The company, which is 82 per cent government-owned, has decided to transfer the heavy maintenance of its aircraft off-shore to Europe and Asia. This is expected to save $100 million over the next five years (ie $20 million a year on average). This is a company that made $250 million profit this year and expects to make $100 million next year. The redundancy costs will be $13 million.
Air New Zealand claims it cannot find enough work for all its maintenance engineers. Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Cullen, washed his hands of the announcement, saying that it is "company business". This is the government welcomed by the Council of Trade Unions as having a "commitment to an investment approach to economic and social development". The announcement by Air New Zealand of the sacking of a highly skilled workforce is a massive disinvestment in New Zealand. It is reminiscent of the closure of the railway workshops in the early 1990s which destroyed a similarly skilled workforce and dismantled another significant section of this country's industrial infrastructure. The CTU must demand that the government intervenes to prevent this act of economic vandalism. . .
. . .The newly elected Labour-led coalition government should act urgently and "creatively". It must step in to take direct control of Air New Zealand. These jobs can be saved if the government has the will to do so. If the government will not act, the workers can. They should take a leaf out of the Argentinean workers' book and occupy the maintenance hangers to keep them going.
The loss of these engineering jobs is completely unnecessary. It is not about the engineering operation losing money. It is all about return on capital. It is about extracting more profit to ready Air New Zealand for another round of privatisation. The company chairman John Palmer is blatantly promoting a sell-down of the government's shares. The government would do better to take-over the whole company. It could be run as a peoples' co-operative under the control of the workers who, after all, know better than anyone how to operate the enterprise most efficiently.”
“Good point about the management preparing Air NZ for re-privatisation. And the NZ economy as 'third world' being driven down the drain by profit. This shows a grasp of the seriousness of NZ’s decline in the world and the need for a strong socialist stand to lead the way forward. Air NZs predicament is classic and opens the way for the nationalising of assets and trading with other third world countries as the only way to combat monopoly capitalism.
The demand right now should be to take up the workers criticisms of failed management and put the company under workers control. Opening the books to the EPMU heads won't prove anything other than cost cutting is necessary to return a profit. Profit in a state owned company should be rejected as the bottom line. The bottom line should be the public interest in a national asset build out of the labour of generations of kiwi workers.
So the demand should be to put the company under workers control and management to protect the accumulated wealth of workers as well the 'public interest'. Why should the 600 workers under threat of sacking put up with a state owned corp run by private sector cost cutters who destroy the skill base of the working class while they strut around in Zambezi gear?
The rising costs of fuel and airports are inevitable while we are subjected to monopoly capital. Nationalisation under workers control (with no compensation especially after all those massive state subsidies!) is the answer. The airports should all be renationalised. The big oil company assets in NZ should be nationalised and oil sourced from Venezuela in a swap for food and agricultural technology.
While it's necessary to demand that Cullen puts up a fight to keep these jobs, we know that he won't even consider it unless put under huge pressure from workers. The 82% state shareholding is just a subsidy to the private sector. He won't want to see the company profits fall and more subsidies being paid out when he wants to keep business on side.”
0n how to fight for occupations and workers’ control we added:
“It’s good that the Alliance has raised the example of the occupations in Argentina. Kirchner's just been re-elected. He is a left Peronist with official union support not too dissimilar to Labour in NZ. But neither has any interest to take-over companies and run them as workers' cooperatives. Cullen has said he will not subsidise Air NZ jobs. They HAVE to keep onside with global monopoly capital.
That's why the solution has to be posed right from the start as a workers' solution that workers' can only do INDEPENDENTLY of the bosses' state. So where to start at Air NZ?
The current Blairite partnership approach goes through the charade of the union officials doing their own audit for two months to see what cuts they can make the workers accept to keep some of their jobs. The EPMU logo is some for all, all for some. Meanwhile workers will be left out of the picture, worrying, or looking for other jobs.
This is the same blackmail that the US unions are using right now to force autoworkers to sacrifice their health insurance in the vain hope they can keep their jobs. As long as the union officials share the same view that companies must be profitable at all costs, the workers are the losers. see http://www.rankandfilers.blogspot.com/
The rank and file engineers need to organise now and take the dispute out of the hands of the EPMU officials. They need to reject the bottom line of profit, and the payment of a dividend to the state that goes straight into the consolidated fund to run the capitalist system. Anyway as an SOE Air NZ is doomed as a national carrier in this global environment and will be gobbled up by Qantas or Singapore sooner or later.
Instead the rank and file should put up a new bottom line - the workers' need for safe, reliable air transport that can survive the oil shocks (get the oil from Venezuela!) and the race to the bottom of cutthroat (ours!) international airline competition. The engineers would have a say in whether it’s good for the peoples' airline to buy carbon fibre planes at $170 million a pop.
That's why Venezuela is a better map than Argentina of the socialist road. The factory occupations there are taking place as part of a society wide revolution where workers are pushing Chavez further and further towards outright expropriation. Oil, paper, gas, steel, and land is being nationalised and a huge fight is going on to turn co-management into real workers' control. The result is that there is a better chance that when Chavez finally baulks, or if the US invades, the workers will be able to defend and complete their socialist revolution.
The great thing is that Venezuela is not a blueprint but an ongoing experiment, and it exists in the flesh and is not fated in advance to be either a pie in the sky reformist utopia, or a discredited Cuban style Stalinist regime. It is an open book where the workers are doing the reading and writing.
A page or two would go down well at Air NZ right now. A campaign to renationalise Air NZ under workers control could be generalised to extend to Telecom, Toll rail, CHH, BNZ .
From Class Struggle 64 Nov 05/Jan 06